Sunday, December 21, 2014

Order v Spice

Two important motivators beyond money are a sense of control and of variety. The two fight each other a little since pleasant surprises are awesome but control prevents negative surprises. Outside of the work environment, many have a desire to just let things be. We don't want to apply the same 'productive rigour' we do in the office at home. I am certainly guilty of my personal admin being nowhere close to as in order as my work stuff. We don't want to do things like balanced scorecards, annual reviews, core values and team meetings since they start making life seem like a business. We separate business like conduct from personal conduct. One example of this is the way relationship building is approached from a business perspective. It is very helpful to keep a record of meetings to refer back to. The approach may be to make sure you speak to someone at least once a quarter, see them in person at least once a year, and ensure that you respond in a timely and considered fashion to their questions or issues. How many friends do you apply that to? Quite often I can end up not seeing a friend who is very important to me and then have to take a wander through my mind to figure out when the last time we saw each other was. At worst, I don't even know what is important to them any more.

Atul Gawande wrote a very interesting book called 'The Checklist Manifesto' where he looked at the impact of checklists on various professions including Nursing and Pilots. He believes that sometimes important things just get missed, not on purpose, but because of the way our minds work. Part of the strength of the human brain is the ability to fill in gaps and make jumps. This means our minds are comfortable with holes. Without a consciousness check, nurses may miss appropriate tests and pilots may think they have flicked a particular switch (partly because they have flicked that switch thousands of times and so the memory of having done it may be a memory from much further back). This has multiple applications. Investment analysts may have lists they work through to make sure they have covered the important bases in analysing a business. Teachers may have lists to check that they have looked for various progress milestones for their students.

When it comes to personal relationships, we seem to have an inbuilt resistance alarm that goes off immediately when thing seem too constructed or ordered. Even in the work environment, those lists seem an infringement on our authority over our choices. The temptation is to go with the flow. Important stuff can then get missed. Birthdays is the obvious example. Even just seeing or talking to friends is another. I think one of the issues that messes with happiness is that we end up not giving the attention we want to give to some things, not because they aren't important, but because we simply didn't think of it. When we remember, we berate ourselves. Martial Arts are well known for their routines. I have added a video of a little kid doing his first kata. Developing set movements helps ensure the bases are covered. I do the same in the style of yoga I practise and teach. There are 12 basic postures you work through to make sure nothing important is left out. As long as you don't cut out spice and surprise, making sure you make some time for everything that is important is vital. Use it or lose it.

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